Stay With Me has put her on the pages of Vogue and now the Wellcome prize shortlist. She talks about dating and growing up in a turbulent Nigeria
It has been quite a year for Ayòbámi Adébáyò. She is in London for International Women’s Day, as she was last year, when it was announced that her first novel had been longlisted for the Baileys prize. Stay With Me went on to make the shortlist and is now up for the Wellcome prize, the winner of which will be announced later this month. The novel was glowingly reviewed, not least by the New York Times’s high priestess Michiko Kakutani (“stunning”, “powerfully magnetic and heartbreaking”); Sarah Jessica Parker chose it for the American Library’s book club; and the author, who has just turned 30, has been interviewed in both the Paris Review and Vogue. When we meet, she has come from the BBC, where she had been discussing the #MeToo movement in Nigeria. “It’s complex and very different across regions, across class, maybe even across religions,” Adébáyò says, describing what it means to be a young woman in her home country. “I think there is a dissonance between how much is expected of you as a young person, whether you are a man or a woman: you are supposed to go to university, you get a master’s degree, maybe two, particularly if you come from the middle class.
“And somehow, when it gets to a certain point, there’s a separation in how far you can go because a woman is to subsume all of her ambition to – some would say – the ultimate goal of marriage. To be fair, men are also pressured into getting married. But I don’t think men are expected to make the sacrifices that are routinely expected of a woman.”